Sunday, April 27, 2014

Number 1566: Commie Smasher

I like the fifties Atlas versions of their triad of superheroes, Captain America, Human Torch and Sub-Mariner. I thought the artwork was very good. John Romita’s work on Captain America stands out for me. He had been drawing comics since 1949, but when he did this issue of Captain America #78 (1954 —  the last issue until the sixties) he was a mature-in-style but young-in-age 24-year-old comic artist with the work he would be most recognized for still a decade and more in the future.

Since Cap was the patriotic hero he needed enemies of America on which to beat, and in the fifties that meant communists. At that time communist activity in the U.S. was mostly done in secret, but in the lead story the communist monster wears his hammer-and-sickle on his chest. Knowing your enemies by what they wear worked in World War II, when a swastika meant there was an enemy due for a butt-kicking. By 1954 the enemy was much more savvy than to wear his affiliation on the outside. Still, this is a comic, and symbols in comics give instant identification between good guys and bad.


Lysdexicuss said...

Romita's work on Cap reminds me of Frank Robbins & Milt Caniff's comic strip material from this same era; perhaps a heavy influence before Marvel later forced the Kirby-style on its bullpen of Artists.

Daniel [] said...

Romita seems to have been very unhappy, at the time and at least into the '70s, with the quality of his work on those mid-50s Captain America stories. For my part, I thought that they were reasonably well drawn, though the writing was generally very weak.

Perhaps Romita's sense of what constituted good work was calibrated against that of Bill Everett.

Pappy said...

Daniel, I recall that Romita said in that era he wasn't really sure of his work. But he said Stan Lee didn't complain when he handed it in, so he figured it was all right.

Lysdexicus, Caniff for sure was the gold standard in the forties when Romita began his career. If I have a problem with Romita's work at the time it looks too busy. But he was still very young, and as Daniel mentioned, probably measuring his work against Everett and maybe Joe Maneely as well.

Lysdexicuss said...

Just a few years later, Romita did some of his finest brushwork on The Western Kid, before the Marvel Age of Super-Heroes & Kirby style took hold. Marvel even reprinted this series in the early 70's when Cowboy comics made a brief comeback, worth picking up in dollar bins @ comic shops & conventions.

M. Bouffant said...

The giant typewriter & convenient waterfall & dynamo must have been borrowed from a Batman story.

Pappy said...

M. Bouffant, WHAT?! Someone in comics borrowing or swiping from another comic? Unheard of!